The UAE will go into their Women’s World Twenty20 opener against the Netherlands in buoyant mood after they defeated Uganda by 29 runs in Thursday’s warm-up game.
A week after arriving in Amsterdam, the UAE played their only practice game against Uganda in what will give them a lot of confidence ahead of Saturday’s clash against the Dutch.
At Voorburg, former Sri Lankan international Chamani Seneviratna showed why she will be a vital player for the UAE when the 39-year-old scored 55 runs.
Her knock came from 45 deliveries including five boundaries and a six, which was integral as the UAE set a competitive total of 128-5. Esha Oza and Udeni Dona also contributed with 27 and 32 runs respectively.
In reply, Uganda reached 99-7 with Kavisha Kumari the pick of the bowlers with 2-16. Captain Humaira Tasneem, Heena Hotchandani, Subha Srinivasan and Seneviratna also took one scalp each.
The UAE will now take on Netherlands after being drawn alongside the Dutch, Papua New Guinea and Asian T20 champions Bangladesh.
Ireland, Scotland, Uganda and Thailand make up the eight-team tournament with two nations qualifying to the 2018 World Twenty20 in the West Indies.
Young pacer Yodhin Punja, who last featured for the UAE two years ago, will fly to Dubai and train with the senior national team over the summer in his bid of resurrecting his international career.
Punja, 19, made his senior debut in the four-day ICC Intercontinental Cup defeat to Hong Kong in November 2015, but the last of his three appearances came against Scotland in August 2016.
In that summer, he moved to England after being awarded a cricket scholarship at Claremont High School, but since that move Punja has only featured for the Under-19 squad with his last appearance coming in October 2016.
Due to his age, he’s ineligible to play for the youth team again and despite being based more than 3,000 miles away in England, Punja is keen to add to his senior caps.
He will fly to the UAE next month where he will train daily with the senior players from the middle of July until September after being in contact with head coach Dougie Brown.
“Dougie called me about two months ago and we had a conversation on the possibility of playing for the UAE and that was a big positive for me,” said Punja, who became the youngest UAE international, aged 16, to play first-class and ODI cricket.
“I have been in touch with them over the past three months about my progress and am looking forward to going back and getting back into the whole setup,” added the pacer, who has played club cricket in England.
Although it will be just training, Punja wants to use this opportunity to send another reminder of his potential and hopefully earn a recall to the senior team.
“To hear from Dougie Brown, who is the head coach is very encouraging and gives me hope of the possibility of me of playing for the UAE one day even though I’m based in the UK,” he added.
“This for me is an opportunity for the players and coaches to say ‘wow we could really do with someone like this in our team’. That is what I’m trying to get out of them. I have been working really hard and it’s been a long time since people in the UAE have seen me bowl. I just want to make sure they see the improvement I’ve made and impressed with it. For me, I want it to be a good development phase for me.”
Ahmed Raza will put friendship aside for a few hours when he faces his UAE team-mates in the Global T20 Canada on Saturday evening.
Raza and UAE star Shaiman Anwar, who are part of the Edmonton Royals’ squad, will come up against compatriots Rohan Mustafa and Mohammad Naveed in their game against Toronto Nationals.
Raza, 29, is no stranger to facing his international team-mates after playing against them in domestic games in the UAE. But with a bigger stage, an array of world-class internationals and a trophy up for grabs, Raza knows it will be a lot different to what their previous encounters used to be.
“It will be exciting to play against them, that’s for sure,” the spinner said. “We have played each other in the Inter-Emirates tournament and always played against each other in different events in the UAE. With us knowing how each other work, it could work in our favour and the same for them.
“It would be a different experience to what we are used to. It’s a chance to be spilling the beans to my team-mates about Naveed and Rohan’s skills but overall it will be a good experience and an exciting one.”
The UAE quartet faced a race to actually be in time for the start of the tournament after their visas were still being processed.
After more than a week, Raza, Naveed and Mustafa were finally issued their visa on Wednesday afternoon and later boarded a flight from Dubai to Toronto later that evening. Anwar flew to Canada the following day on Thursday.
Raza admitted it was a ‘stressful’ couple of days waiting to find out if their visas would be issued, but is happy not to miss any games at all in North America.
“Obviously it is a very big relief as it’s been a stressful week for all of us here,” he said. “Luckily, everything got done just in time so we are ready to depart for Canada.”
For Naveed, just hours after making the long 14-hour flight, the pacer shrugged off the jet lag and was part of Toronto’s starting 11 which beat Vancouver Knights by six wickets.
The 31-year-old was far from his best with figures of 0-60 but former Australian skipper Steve Smith’s 61 and Anton Devcich’s 92 saw them win with four balls to spare.